Generous funding breaks credited with helping locals ride out storm

While movie industries around the world have been hit hard by the economic downturn, German filmmakers have been largely oblivious to credit crunches and shrinking equity.

Germany’s generous film incentives — federal and regional subsidy coin amounts to some $360 million a year — has not only kept local filmmakers happily stimulated but continues to attract major international projects to the country.

Included in that figure is the $80 million-a-year German Federal Film Fund (DFFF), which offers up to 20% tax breaks to international shoots lensing in Germany.

In 2010, the DFFF tax-incentive translated into nearly half a billion dollars in production revenue last year.

The DFFF handed out some $80 million in tax incentives last year to a total of 80 features, 30 documentaries and four animated films. Among those were Paul W.S. Anderson’s “The Three Musketeers,” starring Orlando Bloom, Milla Jovovich and Christoph Waltz; Jaume Collet-Serra’s Berlinale screener “Unknown,” with Liam Neeson; and David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method,” starring Viggo Mortensen and Keira Knightley.

According to German federal culture commissioner Bernd Neumann, the DFFF’s total investment in film production last year resulted in an “economic effect” of some $466 million in film industry expenditures.

“The DFFF has quickly managed to improve the underlying economic conditions of the local industry,” says Neumann. “In the past few years the DFFF has strengthened and stabilized the competitiveness of medium-sized film companies. Germany has also become an attractive location for international production.”

Indeed, generous film support has attracted the likes of Joel Silver, who inked a co-production deal with Studio Babelsberg in 2008 and regularly brings productions to Germany, most recently “Unknown” and Todd Lincoln’s “Apparition.”

Babelsberg also served as co-producer on Joe Wright’s upcoming Focus Features thriller “Hanna,” starring Eric Bana and Saoirse Ronan, and Roland Emmerich’s Shakespeare drama “Anonymous,” securing German coin for both.

It’s not just German dough that’s generating interest, however. U.S. majors are also eagerly boarding local productions.

Universal Pictures Intl. recently nabbed Detlev Buck’s upcoming comedy “Rubbeldiekatz,” which it will co-produce and release later this year. Pic stars Matthias Schweighoefer as a desperate actor who’s mistakenly cast as a woman in a Hollywood production.

U has a separate distribution pact with Berlin-based production giant UFA Cinema and last year released Lars Kraume’s apocalyptic drama “Days to Come” and Christine Hartmann’s tyke pic “Hanni and Nanni.”

The healthy state of the local film industry is very much evident at this year’s Berlinale, where half of the 22 films in the competition lineup are German productions or co-productions, among them highly anticipated works like Wim Wenders’ 3D “Pina,” a documentary about the late modern dance choreographer Pina Bausch, and Miranda July’s Sundance screener “The Future,” which received support from regional funder Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg.

The Medienboard backed a total of eight films in the fest’s competition line-up alone this year, seven of those international co-productions, such as Argentinean helmer Rodrigo Moreno’s “A Mysterious World” and Paula Markovitch’s “The Prize.”

Germany’s generous film incentives have also resulted in unprecedented cross-border pairings: Last year Studio Babelsberg formed TheManipulators, a Babelsberg-based production joint venture with Paris sales-production shingle Celluloid Dreams and Munich-based equity investor Clou Partners. At the same time, Studio Hamburg joined forces with London’s Pinewood Studios, creating Pinewood Studio Berlin Film Services. The company will have access to Studio Hamburg’s production and studio facilities in Hamburg and at the Berlin Adlershof complex as well as those of Pinewood, which include Shepperton and Teddington Studios.

Teuton talent
Noteworthy German titles avaiable at at Berlin

“Above Us Only Sky”
Director: Jan Schomburg
Producers: Chistoph Friedel, Claudia Steffen
Cast: Sandra Huller, Georg Friedrich, Felix Schmidt-Knopp
Logline: After her husband disappears, Martha begins to realize how little she knew him, and how his life with her was a charade. But instead of coming to terms with her loss, she meets another man who unwittingly keeps her bound to the past.
Sales: Bavaria Film Intl.

“Almanya”
Director: Yasemin Samdereli
Cast: Fahri Ogun Yardim, Demet Gul, Vedat Erincin, Lilay Huser, Denis Moschitto
Logline: Comedy about a Turkish family that has been living in Germany for three generations, whose members set off on a turbulent journey to their homeland.
Sales: Beta

“The Coming Days”
Director: Lars Kraume
Producers: Matthias Glasner, Lars Kraume, Katrin Schlosser, Jurgen Vogel
Cast: Bernadette Heerwagon, Daniel Bruhl, August Diehl, Johanna Wokalek
Logline: A family drama in the near future, when a disintegrating and collapsing world is marked by war and terror.
Sales: Telepool

Innocent Saturday
(Russia-Germany-Ukraine)
Director: Alexander Mindadze
Producer: Alexander Rodnyansky, Sergei Melkumov
Cast: Anton Shagin, Svetlana Smirnova-Marcinkevich
Logline: Drama set against the backdrop of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
Sales: Bavaria Film Intl.

“Life Is Too Long”
Director: Dani Levy
Producer: Manuela Stehr
Cast: Markus Hering, Meret Becker
Logline: Neurotic filmmaker Alfi Seliger floats through the chaos of his life as an artist, family man and son of an eccentric Jewish mother.
Sales: Telepool

“Single by Contract”
Director: Marc Rothemund
Producers: Ewa Karlstrom, Andreas Ulmke-Smeaton
Cast: Anna Fischer, Kostja Ullman, Inka Friedrich, Amber Bongard
Logline: Romantic comedy about dating a famous rock star. Directed by Marc Rothemund.
Sales: Telepool

“Transfer”
Director: Damir Lukacevic
Producers: Marcos Kantis, Martin Lehwald
Cast: B.J. Britt, Regine Nehy, Ingrid Andree, Hans-Micheal Rehberg
Logline: An aging, wealthy couple transfer themselves into the bodies of two impoverished Africans for 20 hours a day. But what happens in the four remaining hours?
Sales: Telepool

“Vincent Wants to Sea”
Director: Ralf Huettner
Producers: Viola Jager, Harald Kugler
Cast: Florian David Fitz, Karoline Herfurth, Heino Furch
Logline: One of Germany’s biggest box office hits of 2010, this road movie looks at three young people who escape from their clinic and journey to Italy.
Sales: Beta

“When We Leave”
Director: Feo Aladag
Producers: Feo Aladag, Zuli Aladag
Cast: Sibel Kekilli, Nizam Schiller, Derya Alabora
Logline: Umay is a young woman of Turkish descent, fighting for an independent and self-determined life in Germany despite resistance from her family.
Sales: Telepool

“Young Goethe In Love” (Goethe!)”
Director: Philipp Stoelzl
Cast: Alexander Fehling, Moritz Bleibtreu, Miriam Stein
Producers: Christoph Muller, Helge Sasse
Logline: A fresh romantic comedy take on the early years of Germany’s most famous literary genius and rebel, in the vein of “Shakespeare in Love” and “Amadeus.”
Sales: Beta

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